Director of Asia Center at University of Kentucky Presents Convocation

April 06, 2010


Dr. Kristin Stapleton, director of the Asia Center and associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky, spoke at convocation on Thursday, March 20 about an amazing phenomenon in the world today -- the transformation of Chinese cities.




Dr. Kristin Stapleton

Dr. Kristin Stapleton


"Cities are some of the most complex phenomena of human nature," said Stapleton, who exudes energy when speaking about the subject of Chinese architecture, which she finds so intriguing.

To help the audience understand the intricacies of Chinese cities, Stapleton discussed Chinese urban history, tracing the changes that have occurred over hundreds of years. Once ruler by an emperor, the ancient cities fulfilled the model suggested in a book, described as "Confucian classic." This model was a four-sided enclosure with gates and roads built at 90 degree angles.

Later, cities were built and re-built with some western influences. She explained that during the time of 1949 - 1976, there was a decline in the growth of Chinese cities as the focus shifted to the countryside.

Currently, Chinese cities are undergoing unprecedented growth. They are working in Beijing to prepare for the 2008 Olympics. As for the future of Chinese cities, Stapleton said that historians are always hesitant to make predictions. She would, however, offer some suggestions as to the future outlook.

"One of the factors that I think will effect Chinese cities in the future is the sense of history, and attachment to it, that the Chinese have," said Stapleton. "And the Chinese certainly have a rich and colorful history from which to draw."
She noted that western architects are bringing elements of Chinese housing designs to the United States.

Stapleton is associate professor of history at the University of Kentucky. She received her A.B. degree with high distinction from the University of Michigan. She received her master's degree and Ph.D. from Harvard University.


A slide showing a wall that was often built around a Chinese city.

A slide showing a wall that was often built around a Chinese city.


Her interest in the history of Chinese cities was born at the University of Michigan, while studying Chinese. Her junior year abroad introduced her to the Chinese city of Taipei. She spent another two years doing research in such Chinese cities as Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai and her favorite city, Chengdu.

She has written two books, "Civilizing Chengdu: Chinese Urban Reform," and "The Japanese City," in addition to various articles. Her current research projects include a study of how Chinese governments were affected by World War II and a book on the historical background of China's most famous 20th Century novel, "Family," by Ba Jin.

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